Monday, April 16, 2012

Mississippi: Grand Fanale

As much as I love each and every component that makes our trips to Mississippi special, every back yard that my babies run through barefoot, every neck that we get to hug for the first time in months, each late night conversation with parents and grandparents that educate, inspire, and excite us, all the home cooked meals that bring childhood right back to you...
my favorite part to any Mississippi trip is seeing my Daddy.
Its the cherry on top of a delicious, satisfying, beautifully put together sunday.
My dad has suffered several strokes since the time that I was born.
Each of the bigger ones have taken an ability away from him.
Some were small things taken, like walking a perfectly straight line.
Others larger, such as two blind spots in his eyes that left him still able to see for the most part but not able to drive.
And the last one, huge. His ability to converse.

He is able to say a good handful of words. And that handful grows just slightly bigger each year.

Any one who reads this blog and knows my dad understands that this was a catastrophic loss for him and all of us that love him. Growing up, I recall my mom and grandmother both telling him "Carl, you could talk to a brick wall." Its been said about him by numerous people that "Carl, he never meets a stranger."

He use to strike up conversations with anyone and everyone. We would go to the bank and by the time his check was deposited, he would know the teller's whole life story. We'd eat at a restaurant and by the time our check was on the table we knew our waitress' name, hometown, and maybe even her the name and color of her dog. I'm sure it annoyed me when I was younger, but now I remember those moments with delight and longing. I'd do most anything to be able to have a two way conversation with my daddy. The ones like we use to have, where an hour slips by in what seems like minutes.

Here's the thing that amazes me endlessly about my dad. With each stroke that he's had, his spirit has never been broken. He's legally blind (and his sight has worsted with age), his hands shake terribly, and he can't not communicate all of the thoughts that are in his head but he always has a smile on his face. Before this last one, the one that took his speech, I never heard him utter a word that had to do with self pity. He has always been thankful for what he does have and not foccused on what he doesn't. Maybe its because I'm his daughter and he sheltered me from any negativity, maybe he did vent to someone around him.. I don't know. All I know is that he's the bravest, kindest, strongest person I know.

Back to our visit. We had dinner at an old favorite with all of my sisters.
Its been a really long time since ALL of us girls have been together at once, so I know this meant the world to my dad.
We had a great visit and good food. Family and food. I'd say those are his two favorite things in the world. I'd also say this apple didn't fall far from the tree.

My beautiful niece turned 15 the next week so we celebrated her birthday at dinner.

The only thing that would have made this night better is if my two brothers and their families had been there. I'm crossing my fingers for that day to come sooner than later.
I'm sad that the younger grandchildren, my kids included, don't know the talkative man my dad has always been. I wish they knew how great he is at telling jokes. I wish they were able to talk all night with him over a a bowl of ice cream.

But I'm so glad they are able to sit in his lap, and hold his hand. I'm grateful that they are able to see the love he has for them by the words that he can say and the happiness that beams from his face when he's with us. And I'm so happy that his playfulness still shines through with them. They know their PawPaw is an amazing man. I wish they knew just how much so.

After dinner, we headed to my big sisters house. We stayed up late visiting, playing games, laughing, and reminiscing. It was the perfect end to a fabulous trip.

Can't wait until Christmas to do it all again!

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Mississippi Day 3: Easter Egg Hunt

Saturday morning we celebrated Easter with Daniel's family.

I remember our very first Easter at the Grandparent's house. Dylan was about half a year old and was the only baby and only great grandchild. Every year since then, with exception of our first year in Texas, we have celebrated Easter here. Fast forward seven years, and there are 7 great grands running around and Dylan is far from a baby.

Grandma and Grandpa do a fantastic jobs of making Easter something that our littles will never forget. The day is always full of all sorts of fun traditions. One of my favorite is that Grandpa always has something ready to build with each of the kids. He's done a bird house, a bird feeder, and this year he did a little marble game with them. The little ones love the one on one time with Grandpa and they feel so big a and special using his tools and making something cool.

At any given point during the day, you can find a group of folks swinging in the gazebo. When I spotted Grandma and Grandpa there, I had to snap a picture or two. I'm thinking this one will go in a frame.
These folks have been married over 50 years and they are still in love. Inspiration.

I've mentioned it before, but this old tree swing sure has been the co-star of many happy moments. The way that the gazebo draws in all the grown ups, the tree swing does to the children. Its rare to look over and find it empty.

Also, its rare to look over and see a kid swinging this high. What was Daniel thinking!? ;)
Every family does an egg hung. But at Grandpa's and Grandma's we do a scavenger hunt. They started this when Daniel and all of his cousins were kids themselves. Now not only do all of those grown up "kids" still get a (much harder) set of clues for their scavenger hunt, but their kids get a set of clues for one too. I think that's the neatest thing.

And because I'm Carl Edwin's daughter...
I must show you pictures of the food table.
If you know my daddy, you know what I'm saying. If you don't, lets just say...
his love language is food. ;)

I realized that I hadn't gotten a picture Daniel's parents and the kids while we were at their house, so I had to grab one when I spotted them sitting under the gazebo. (I feel like that could be the title of a good country song)
Grandma and Grandpa are my father in law's parents.
Grandpa, Umpa, Daniel, and Dylan...
that is four generations of Hilburn men celebrating Easter.
That's pretty special.

Those sweet little goat came out to celebrate with us too!

And we always have a special VIP guest each year...
And of course, the egg hunt.
That silly bunny even does the Hokey Pokey.

I don't take it for granted how special these days are for our family and for my kids.
I know that not every family has opportunities to get together like this.
Not every family sticks together long enough to see grandchildren raising great grandchildren together. Its pretty rare, at least where I live, to hear "my second cousin...."
I'm so thankful that this is the dynamic of our family. That Dylan and London know and love their second cousins and their great aunts and uncles.

I hope they'll always know how special their family is.
And I hope that this is the way that their children are raised also.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Mississippi Day 2: Great Grandparents!!

Friday morning we slept in and took our time getting ready, which one of the best parts of vacation if you ask me, before hitting the road to Hattiesburg. We met Daniel's grandmother, Momma Ree, and his Aunt Pat there for lunch. I couldn't leave with out taking a few pictures the kids inmfront of the creak in Umpa and Memom's back yard. I know I said the river is my favorite place ever to take pictures, but this might be a tie. I looks like an Olan Mills backdrop to me.

I took 1,000 more, but blogger limits me to 20 pictures a post.

After driving 9 hours to Mississippi, the two hours it takes to get from McComb to Hattiesburg seemed like a hop down the road. We chose Chick-fil-a so that the kids could play while we visited and it worked out perfectly. A nice restaurant would have been great, but in this season of life... Chick-fil-a makes so much more sense. There will be plenty of years of nice restaurants, and I'm sure I'll miss the days of play places and kids meals. We loved seeing Momma Ree and Aunt Pat and are hoping to spend much more time with them on our next trip.
Daniel's Grandparents live right outside of Hattiesburg out in the country.
I've said it before, but there house is one of both mine and Daniel's favorite places on earth. I think the kids would tell you the same. Its peaceful and calming and I feel like little particles of happiness and feel-goods float through the air. We all feel right at home when we are there. My kids think the guest room with two twin beds in it is there solely for them, I think. And we feel the same way about Daniel's parents house. We are so lucky to have two places that are so special to us. Its like Island hopping from one paradise to another when visiting.

As soon as we pull up to the house, the kids are running for the back yard. The car doors haven't even shut before London has found her way to the tree swing. Dylan runs straight to Grandpa every time.

Just like Umpa, Grandpa had his own little put-put course set up for the kids. How fun is that? And can we please discuss how grown up Dylan looks in the photo bellow? He'll be ready for a real tee time before long.
Just like at Memom and Umpa's house, the bulk of our day is spent right where its supposed to be when your in the country on a beautiful spring day... outside.

And at Grandma and Grandpa's house... juice boxes are unlimited.

We did take a break from playing outside for a bit and London helped Grandma in the kitchen. They made a blueberry pie. And of course, Grandma lets her sneak a few bites, because that's what grandmas do! Dylan and Grandpa were in the video game room fighting off some tough boogers (this is what the Grandparents call the villain in video games, and now so does Dylan).
Grandma and Grandpa always have a few farm animals around. Mainly chickens and roosters. This visit they had baby goats. Actually, they are Aunt Paula's (who lives next door) but they were in Grandma's yard. The kids (goats, not MY kids) were so darn cute (well, MY kids are too) and have been bottle fed since birth, so they are tame. The kids (human ones) were beside themselves when Grandma said they could feed and pet them.

My kids with the kids.
Isn't that fun!?

A trip to Grandpa's is not complete with out a ride and an adventure on the his tractor.

Okay, I said McComb was my favorite place to take pictures of the kids, but this is too. So, its a three way tie. Mississippi is just a beautiful place.

After dinner, Grandma set up eggs to dye. London was SO excited. Dylan was feeling a little too cool for school about them. He dyed one egg and was done. London though that suited her just fine. She's like her mommy and loves any sort of craft, I think!

Before we headed in for the night, Daniel noticed there was a chicken that seemed stuck on the outside of its fence. He and London tried to help in back in. Turns out the chicken didn't need any help to figure out what to do, but it was so funny to watch Daniel trying to lend a helping hand.

In the process of being Old Mac Daniel, one of the goats escaped. Daniel chased it around a bit before deciding to pick it up and carry it inside the fence. When he picked the goat up, that sweet little girl turned around and gave him a big ole lick on the nose!
Once again, the babies were asleep in about 10 seconds flat.
Mississippi fresh air just does that to ya.

Can I just say how much it means to me that my babies have THREE great grandparents in their lives? Three people who have grand-parented their Daddy and now them. People who made memories that only grandparents do with their Daddy and now remake some of the same special memories with them. It means the world to me.
I pray that one day my grandchildren are blessed in the same way, and even more!

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